It’s certainly been a long time coming, but it’s now 1 week until 6th April 2022 when NO FAULT DIVORCE will be introduced in England & Wales. Whilst we’re still waiting for the final details, we do know that there will be some BIG changes.
The sole ground for divorce, ‘Irretrievable Breakdown’, will continue to apply and under the new law, applicants will provide a statement confirming ‘Irretrievable Breakdown’ of the marriage. The big change is that the Court must accept this statement as evidence that the marriage has indeed broken down irretrievably and it will no longer be possible to defend the divorce (although it will be possible to ‘dispute’ the divorce on very limited grounds). This means that, unlike before, if one spouse says the marriage has irretrievably broken down the divorce will go ahead even if the other person disagrees.
The five facts that are currently required to be proved: adultery, behaviour, desertion, two years separation (with consent) and five years’ separation (without consent), will no longer apply. This is a significant change with couples no longer having to blame the other person for the breakdown of the marriage. In fact, it will no longer be possible to blame the other person. And for the first time, couples will be able to make a joint application for divorce.
The rule preventing a couple from divorcing within one year of getting married will remain. The two-stage process also stays. Couples will first receive a Conditional Order (replacing the Decree Nisi) and then six weeks from that date, a Final Order (replacing Decree Absolute). However, the new law introduces a ‘cooling off’ period of 20 weeks meaning that the application for the first stage Conditional Order can only be made after 20 weeks from the date the divorce process is started. This means the whole process will take at least 26 weeks from beginning to Final Order.
The hope is that the changes will make the divorce process a more up-to-date, accessible, collaborative and essentially an administrative process with individuals encouraged to conduct the divorce themselves using the online service without the need to instruct a solicitor.
We appreciate that even with all the changes, the divorce process can be a minefield. As mediators we can provide you with information that will enable you to make informed decisions together about how to move forwards if you’ve made the decision to separate and divorce. This includes providing you with all the information you need to be able to conduct the divorce online so you don’t need to incur the additional costs of instructing a solicitor. When you divorce you also need to agree how to separate your finances. We can support you to make financial arrangements and provide you with information to ensure that any agreements you reach are legally binding.